Don’s Last Day
Don’s Last Day
by Jan Baker
posted 5 May 2011
Dear Baba Community.
You are all now no doubt aware that dear Don [Stevens] passed away at approx. 6.15 am on Tuesday 26th April and as I had the privilege of being with him and Rachel at this time I would like to share with you all my experience.
First please let me introduce myself and say that although I am consciously a relatively newcomer to Meher Baba this relationship has typically shaped and shaken my world since stepping into His in January 2009.
Undoubtedly, the greatest influence and grounding force since that time has been Don Stevens.
Don officially wheeled himself into my life on the first day of the Beads Pilgrimage 2010. I had just suffered another shake up after being tripped and relieved of all my money, credit cards and insurance at New Delhi railway station. In — as I grew to recognize — true Don spirit, he embraced me, a relative stranger, placated, calmed and personally loaned me the money to continue the pilgrimage. His reassuring words and presence not only dispelled my anxiety but they helped me prioritize and focus my attention on the real purpose for my being in India and a bead on this string.
Since returning and subsequently joining Don’s Sunday meeting group my relationship towards him deepened significantly and I became aware of first subtle then quite tectonic shifts occurring within me, especially whilst in his company. So it was a very organic and instinctive wanting to help that culminated in me being on Don’s care team in London and then at Rachel’s house on the Tuesday morning when the hospital rang shortly after 5 o’clock to report a further decline in Don’s condition.
For the purpose of clarity I will share my last nine days with Don in diary form.
Monday 18th April
I received a message to telephone Rachel — she requested I come the following day (assuming Don to be in Berlin I’d spent the Sunday at the Buddhist Centre in Golders Green observing a 24 hour fast and purification practice and so had missed her call).
I arrived at Hammersmith Grove at 7.30 a.m. Sevn had stayed the night and told me that Don had been awake for much of it and was now sleeping. I left him undisturbed until 10.0 a.m. when he got up, ate a good breakfast and after his morning routine sat watching Dennis gardening through the front window whist I manicured his nails. Don soon fell back to sleep so I took my time, gently creaming and massaging his hands, arms and feet. His skin was very delicate and tissue thin, his hands still bruised from the IV in Paris and I was deeply aware of this profound privilege to care for and become quietly yet intimately acquainted with, not Don the orator, philosopher, but Don the elderly and vulnerable human being.
After lunch he became more and more lethargic so seeking Rachel’s opinion Dennis left to collect her.
As soon as her vital energy entered the room Don woke up and they fell into jokey banter. Don enjoyed his usual ice cream “temptation” but then drifted back to sleep.
We both sat in observation, weighing up all concerns and consequences, before telephoning the doctor. We then went into Don’s bedroom and, standing in front of Baba’s picture, prayed and asked for guidance.
In due course the doctor arrived and, suspecting a chest infection and dehydration, advised he be admitted to hospital. An ambulance was called and we both spent the evening with Don at Charing Cross Hospital where he was thoroughly assessed and diagnosed with dehydration and fluid on the lung. They administered antibiotics and intravenous fluids but throughout Don was his usual cheerful self. We kissed and left him some time after 2 a.m. after he’d been allocated a bed.
I visited Don in the morning and although he was still showing signs of confusion, when I reminded him of the random answers he’d given to the doctor’s questioning he smiled and said that “he had to fabricate a bit”.
Rachel stayed at Don’s bedside each day and kept me informed each evening of his condition until I was free to visit again the following Monday 25th April….
En route to the hospital Dennis and I stopped by a garden centre to buy flowers and shrubs for the front garden so that on return Don would have colour and beauty to view through his window.
On arrival at the hospital he was sleeping. Rachel had gotten him some ice cream earlier which he’d eaten and the nursing staff had reported him being awake for most of the night.
We tried feeding him his evening meal but he was not responsive above
fluttering his eyes and moving his lips when moistened with water.
We stayed until 7.45 pm, just holding his hand and occasionally smoothing his hair, that he was always so fastidious about parting and patting, and I kissed him good bye ’til morning.
That evening we went to the Baba Centre. Paul was already there and we were later joined by Ajay
If nothing else could be done medically we determined to bring Don home the following day.
Then we stood in front of Baba’s picture, said the Universal Prayer and Prayer for Baba Lovers and asked that Baba guide our thoughts and actions with the wisdom to intuit and honour His wishes.
Of course this was taken out of our hands with the hospital call at 5 am the following morning.
We arrived at the hospital shortly after 5.30 a.m. Don’s bed was screened from view by blue curtains and he was surrounded by medical staff and linked into an assortment of monitors. We were immediately ushered into a day room and asked to wait but confirming each other’s reactions to what we had just witnessed Rachel returned to the ward and conveyed the family’s request that Don not be subjected to any more stressful or unnecessary interference but left in peace. We were shortly joined by one of the female doctors who confirmed that there was indeed nothing more that could be medically done beyond sustaining Don’s life artificially. The infection in Don’s chest had apparently worsened, intensifying the carbon dioxide in his blood.
We waited for the medical staff to leave. Dennis then said his goodbyes and Rachel and I stood either side of him.
We took one hand in each of ours and, just as he had me in India, we reassured him that he was not and would not ever be alone, that Meher Baba was waiting.
I can’t remember exactly what followed as words just surfaced and evaporated as was their want — but I do know beyond anything else that there was a phenomenal presence of love.
We then recited the Universal Prayer and the Prayer for Baba Lovers, and gently whispering Beloved Meher Baba’s name near his ear our dearest Don slipped away from us. It was truly the most serene of passings and I was reminded of Don’s appreciation and love of beauty in the significant beauty of this most precious of moments. We sang Amazing Grace, Morning has Broken and Welcome to my World and Rachel placed Don’s photograph of Baba on his chest and I the small Don’t Worry Be Happy booklet on his pillow.
A little time later a nurse came in and confirmed that Don had gone.
We stayed by his bed just holding his hand, first together and then allowing each other time alone with Don and my heart prompted me in the beautiful practice of taking and giving — simply breathing in any discomfort, pain or anxiety of another and breathing out love. I then thanked him once again for giving me his friendship — for however short in this life I felt such a knowing of him.
The registrar arrived at about 8.30 am and we then left at 9 a.m.
After leaving the hospital we went back to Don’s flat to be with Claude — each of us separated in our own emotional bubbles yet held in a common sea of calm.
The day simply unravelled with practicalities determining it’s pace and I continued in this suspended state of calm but with the conviction that all was as it should synchronistically be and I returned home to St. Albans the following evening.
Then on the morning of Thursday 28th at 5 a.m. I suddenly woke up. My chest felt so expansive as if cleaved open and I was utterly immersed in love.
I just lay in bed repeating Meher Baba’s name and thanking Him for allowing me entry into Don’s life and for the circumstances that had culminated and climaxed in this present moment. And I will be forever grateful for being a part of his leaving.
Jai Meher Baba